Part 1: The Syrian Presidential Election; Devolution of a Revolution. by Ghassan Kadi

Part I. 
By Ghassan Kadi. 29 May 2014

If we were to analyze the Syrian presidential election, we should stop and look at the controversy it is creating and the Western propaganda that are downplaying the ev...ent. In doing so, we must feel at liberty to have a closer look at the Western system that puts itself head and shoulders above any other political system in the world. 

The West has bamboozled the world with terms such as Free Economy, Democracy, and so go forth, and gave descriptions to other nations that are not on par different descriptions of inferior ranks that go all the way from Second/Third World countries to being part of the “Axis of Evil”.

Western Democracy has not been given the test of universality of application. For it to be a universal model, it must have what it takes to make work under all socio-economic conditions. In reality, it has only been put to the test in nations that have already “reached” the so-called “First World Status”.

For the last two centuries or so, the West did not “need” any major change, an ideological coup to make life better for its people; and hence democracy, revised versions inherited from the Roman or Westminster systems worked fine. For the West that had usurped and plundered other nations, created for itself an economy of abundance, it is easy to pontificate and proclaim that it had found the perfect system, and then to have the audacity to say that the rest of the world must adopt it.
Now here is a question. Is Western style democracy able to make huge changes when such changes are warranted? 

To answer this question, we will have to watch Europe and see if Western Democracy is going to be able to deal with the declining economic power of different nations in Europe. For better or for worse, we have already seen a taste of such scenarios in Greece, but this is perhaps the tip of the ice berg.

In saying this, the USA is not far behind. According to some economic analysts, the American economy is far worse than that of Europe and even Greece. It had only been kept afloat by short-term measures such as “financial easing” (ie printing money), measures that will at best push away the fix, only to make it much harder to achieve. In this instance, the Obama administration knows what hole it is digging, but it is only making short-term measures that make it look good and popular.

The bottom line here is that major decisions of governess which imply sacrifices by individuals for the sake of public good are often taken with popular disdain. Many people think about now and today. What is in it for me? How is this new government policy going to affect my business and my family? It is invariably on such individualistic bases that Western voters go to the polls. 

This is why in Western democracies, politicians present hope and promise wealth and affluence. This is how they win votes and get elected. 

Wars such as WWI and WWII did not last long enough to put Western Democracy under the long-term test of duress, neither did the Great Depression. Citizens of poor nations constantly live under standards that are well below those of the Great Depression. 
When President Hafez Assad assumed power after the “Corrective Movement” in 1970 and had this followed by a referendum, Syria had a multitude of huge problems. It needed a total overhaul and gigantic nation-building programs. 

If President Assad had to deal with holding on power the Western style, he would have had to either make false promises, or alternatively go to his constituency and say something to this effect: 
“Our economy is in ruins, our army needs huge amounts of funds to be modernized and well equipped. We need to implement extremely tough economic measures. Most of you will be worse off for a long time before it gets better. We have to ban imports of all luxury goods. We must dedicate 80% of our budget to the army. Above all, all citizens must understand that their nation is in a state of war, they must fight sectarianism and fundamentalism, unite behind their leader, put their trust in his judgement, re and re-elect him until he gets the job done, and take it as it comes. And by the way, a ban on banana import will also be put in place….sorry, but if you want to eat bananas, you will have to learn how to grow them”.

In reality, these were the challenges that President Hafez Assad had to address, and the longevity of his presidency was the guarantee that the reforms were not to be derailed by some smart jump-up politician who would eventually come and promise the earth just to get himself elected.

In simple terms, Western-style democracy where nation-building is essential does not work, especially when nations are in a state of war like Syria is. After all, Western leaders have two major concerns, how to get elected, and how to get re-elected, and they do this at any cost, just to appease their voters, treating public interest with least concern.

The West will soon find itself in a dilemma in which aspiring politicians are going to find it very hard to get elected, unless they capitalize on rising emotions such as fundamentalism and radicalism. We are in fact witnessing beginnings to such trends in Europe. The Ultra-Right groups, including the Tea Party in the USA are aware of the loophole in the system and are using it to their favour.

If democracy is going to work well, it will have to be based on what is best for the majority, not on cumulative majorities of private agendas. Western democracy has been based on the latter, and its failings were fairly invisible because it ruled during times of economic strength. This is changing, and the West will soon either have to drop the Democracy that it took to the world with B-52’s attached to it, or sit back and allow it (Western Democracy) to turn into a monster that will put extreme radicals in power.


An Epic Gathering at Aleppo University Campus in Support of Presidential Elections 

Are Syrians going to the polls now to actually make a choice, or is this a façade operation orchestrated by the “regime” as the “Anti-Syrian Coalition” wants us to believe? We cannot superficially look at today’s event without examining the growing pains that have led to this moment.

President Hafez Assad was a man of great wisdom and vision, and he knew it. He knew what was right for Syria and its people, and he knew that only through hard work, perseverance, prudence and above all, great sacrifices that Syria could return to the road of recovery.

His perception of Syria was not any different from his perception of Palestine and Lebanon. On the 8th of March 1974, he made a clear message to Israel and the West when he said that Palestine was “a principal part of Southern Syria”. He later on sent his troops into Lebanon to prevent it from being blackholed into the Israeli sphere of dominion.

For his perception of Palestine, he paid a hefty price. He was punished heavily by the West and misunderstood by Arabs; including the PLO chief Yasser Arafat.

He always rightfully believed that the Palestinian question was too big for Palestinians to handle on their own. It is, in his view, a central Arab issue, and more specifically, a Syrian issue.

“Peace is not for the weak” President Assad always said, and he was unable to persuade Arab leaders of his long-term agenda of building up enough might to stand up against the bullish American-Israeli alliance. Arab leaders had already taken the decision to comply with the wishes of the enemy, and the last thing they wanted was a confident patriot telling them that they should unite and fight, especially if that patriot was an Alawite.

Even Arafat insisted on the “independent Palestinian decision”, and his decisions were often at odds with those of Assad and did not fit into the long-term strategies. Assad regarded Palestine as a part of Syria and that it was his stewardship that was needed to bring it justice, but Arafat regarded him as a domineering dictating usurper.

Unable to make sense to Arab defeatists and the gung ho Arafat, Assad invested in educating the Syrian population about the responsibility that rested on their shoulders. Once again, he needed longevity and consistency in order to be able to achieve this, and not policies that can be swept away by the winner of the next “democratic” elections.

This finally brings us to the current Syrian Presidential election.

When Syrians went to vote for Hafez Assad from 1971 onwards, they did not have much of a choice. This is true.

Hafez Assad was a great believer in the patriotism of his people. The memories of Yusuf Al-Azmeh and his gallant men were alive in his memory. Al-Azmeh moved with an outnumbered and ill-equipped regiment to stop the French occupation of Damascus in 1920. Al-Azmeh with his men marched to their certain death, but they were determined not to allow the French into Damascus unopposed.

The victorious Henri Gouraud marched into Damascus, desecrated the tomb of Saladin by putting his foot on it saying: “Saladin, we have returned”. Memories of those stories, the western treacheries, the creation of Israel etc.. never left the President’s mind and he made a point of giving all his political Western visitors lessons in history in all of his meetings with them.

Assad knew that his people, the Syrian people had what it took to be fiercely independent and all they needed was a leader they can trust, one who can galvanize them, and he knew he was that man. He was bemused by people who simply cheered for him to make themselves look good, but without proper understanding of his policies and strategies. He always sought allies, not stooges, but true allies who were able to understand, prepared to walk the talk, and walk the distance were rare and hard to find.

Patriotic education became an integral component of the school curriculum. Army conscription had already been in place. Yet many Syrians remained skeptical and regarded the whole exercise as Baathist propaganda. However, after 3-4 years of Muslim Brotherhood terror campaign of 1979-1982, many Syrians realized that Syria indeed had many internal enemies and that the leadership was able to deal with them effectively. Even though those events made Assad lose some popularity with the Islamic fundamentalists, but his popularity amongst the general populace increased.

Later on, with Assad’s defiance to the American-Israeli plot, his refusal to surrender, his refusal to the “Reagan Plan”, his ability to turn the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon on Mehahim Begin’s head, his perseverance and successes, all finally paid dividends and made him gain more and more domestic support.

Early on in his “reign”, he was voted in because they had no other choice. Later on, some perhaps voted for him out of fear, but in each subsequent election, more and more Syrians voted for him out of conviction, devotion and love.

After the angel of death took this great man away, continuity dictated that his son should succeed him. If this meant dictatorship, then it also meant that the fruit of 30 years of labour and sacrifices were not going to be wasted away.

President Bashar Assad was steadfast and diligent to stick to the policies of reform and resistance to the Western-Israeli plot of submission.

It is of little wonder that by then the defiant proud and independent Syria had angered many nations and made a score of enemies within and without its borders. Enemies with very broad and diverse agendas, only united by their hatred towards Syria’s stand of honour.

When the “War On Syria” started in 2011, the popularity of Bashar was very high, but some Syrians were taken by the fervour of the “Arab Spring” and genuinely thought that there was indeed a move in Syria for more and quicker reform. Those reformists however were not the ones that carried guns and destroyed the infrastructure. Before too long, the enemies who are consumed with their deep fundamentalist sectarian hatred emerged from the woodwork.

Before too long, Syrians advocating reform realized that they were duped, and one by one, individually and in groups, they are waking up to the true conspiracy. Even some of them who took up arms are now responding to the calls of reconciliation and amnesty. We have recently seen this happen in many places, the most advertised one was the one in Homs.

Earlier on during the “War On Syria”, the West was “demanding” new elections in Syria. Now, with all of the recent developments, with the series of victories of the Syrian Army, and most importantly perhaps, with the rising popularity of President Bashar, the West is treating the Syrian Presidential Election like a non-event.

Little does the West know that before going to the polls, Syrians had 3 long years of war and 3 long years of remembering the words and warnings of the late and great Hafez Assad. Some of what he forewarned about did not make much sense to those with short vision. Now, they know that he was right. They had to learn the hard way. Now, they also know that for them to secure the continuity of their dignity, they have to remain steadfast and united behind their President of choice.

Finally, the revolution of Hafez Assad had gone the full circle. His vision is now in the hearts and minds of his people to whom he devoted his life.

Long before the current elections, Syrians have decided to vote with their blood. Blood is thicker than water and reverberates thunders that will echo for centuries, long after the poll count has been taken.

Letter to Bashar Al-Assad from Senator Richard H. Black


Bashar Al-Assad,
President of Syria, Damascus

April 1st, 2014

Dear President al-Assad

I write to thank the Syrian Arab Army for its heroic rescue of Christians in the Qalamoun Mountain Range. I am especially grateful for the spectacular victory at Yabroud, where the Syrian Arab Army and Air Force liberated Christians and other Syrians who had been held captive by terrorists for several years. We are deeply grateful for the skill and valor displayed by Syrian troops who rescued the 13 nuns who were kidnapped and used as human shields by the cowardly jihadists at Yabroud.

It is obvious that the war in Syria has largely been fought by vicious war criminals linked to al-Qaeda. Groups like al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant routinely commit war crimes as a matter of official policy. They proudly post YouTube videos showing mass executions of prisoners of war, beheadings of priests and other civilians, and even cannibalism. In Aleppo, last June, al-Nusra boasted of forcing a mother to watch as they murdered her 14-year-old son by shooting him through the mouth and neck. It is difficult to understand how any civilized nation can condone the actions of such bloodthirsty criminals.

Clearly, the Syrian people have grown weary of seeing foreign mercenaries enter their land to fight against them. Your people suffered the criminal acts committed by those jihadists, who came to rape and murder innocent Syrians. Now, even some in the Western media are reporting that the rebels have lost the war—that their cause has grown hopeless.

Yet to this day, few Americans realize that the rebels in Syria are dominated by our arch-enemy, al-Qaeda. They do not know that your enemies have sworn allegiance to the same organization that, on September 11, 2001, crashed jetliners into the Pentagon and the Twin Towers, killing over 3,000 innocent Americans. Today, al-Qaeda-linked fighters use suicide bombs to murder helpless women and children in your country, just as they slaughtered helpless civilians here.

I cannot explain how Americans, who suffered so grievously at the hands of al-Qaeda, were tricked into supporting the jihadists. But I do know that many U.S. officials disagree with equipping and training the terrorists who penetrate your borders from the Kingdom of Jordan and through Turkey.

The worst possible outcome would be for the rebels to seize the capital and raise the dreaded black flag of al-Qaeda over Damascus. For that reason, the rebels have been denied advanced weapons. Military planners know that the terrorists are deceitful and untrustworthy. Nothing prevents them from turning antiaircraft missiles against civilian aircraft. Were they were to seize control of Syria’s reported arsenal of 4,000 MANPADS, terrorists could turn airliners into fireballs at Dulles Airport, Heathrow, and LaGuardia, paralyzing commercial aviation across the globe. Helping them to do so is an act of utter madness

You have followed the practice of your father by treating with respect all Christians and the small community of Jews in Damascus. You defended their churches and the Jewish synagogue, and you have permitted them to worship freely according to their beliefs. I am grateful for that.

By contrast, wherever rebels have seized control, they have acted as thieves, criminals and vandals. They raped, tortured, kidnapped and beheaded innocent people. They defiled the churches. The terrorists imposed the loathsome “dhimmitude” tax on Christians and Jews, treating them as subhuman. I pray that your army will drive the jihadists from Syria, so that Syrians of all faiths may live together in peace.

Until then, I pray that the Syrian armed forces will continue to exhibit extraordinary gallantry in the war against terrorists. Please convey my personal thanks to the Syrian Arab Army and Air Force for protecting all patriotic Syrians, including the religious minorities who face death at the hands of the foreign jihadists.


Richard H. Black Senator of Virginia, 13th District

Senate of Virginia
P.O. Box 396
Richmond, VA 23218


LETTER TO THE EDITOR: End U.S. support for Syrian rebels now

By The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 22, 2013

America should end its intervention in Syria or shift its support to President Bashar Assad. Iraq-based al Qaeda militants now control the rebellion. A shadowy terrorist named Baghdadi has moved from Iraq to northern Syria to control al Qaeda’s operations there. He is a grotesque savage, determined to compel acceptance of radical Islam through religious courts and executions.

Under his influence, rebels have begun sharing online videos of atrocities, including public executions of captured soldiers. This week, a rebel leader proudly cannibalized a Syrian soldier for all to see. If Syria falls, these barbarians would unleash rape and bloodletting of epic proportions.

Ten years of Middle East conflict has inflamed radical forces, driving Christians and Jews from lands they occupied for thousands of years. In the time of St. Peter, Damascus may have been the most Christianized place on Earth. And despite hundreds of years of Islamic dominance, Syria still remains 10 percent Christian.

Christians are protected by Mr. Assad, just as they were by his father before him. They and the ruling Alawite Muslims are understandably frightened by the bloodthirsty executions and cannibalism of the rebels.

In Libya and Egypt, the fruits of the “Arab Spring” have proved poisonous. The revolutions destroyed stability, moderation and religious tolerance.

U.S. military intervention ended badly in Libya. Our ambassador was killed, and 20,000 Libyan anti-aircraft missiles went missing; they may still be in rebel hands. If al Qaeda topples Syria, they will capture large stocks of chemical weapons to deploy against Israel and the West.

The United States is reportedly training and equipping the rebels. Requiring GIs to aid al Qaeda directly or indirectly is a despicable betrayal of their years of bloody battles against that terrorist force. Continued support for the Syrian rebels is simply immoral. It is time for the United States to stand down.


Member, Virginia General Assembly

Ashburn, Va.


Letter to the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from a US Senator

Virginian Senator Richard H.Black sent a letter to President Assad where he thanked the Syrian Army and expressed his gratefulness for its victories. He thanked president Assad for treating all sects with respect while rebels acted as thieves, criminals and vandals. At the end, he prayed that the Syrian Army would continue to exhibit extraordinary gallantry in the war against terrorists. He asked the president to convey his personal thanks to the Syrian Army and Air force for protecting all patriotic Syrians.

Virginia State Senator Black: "US Attack On Syria Is Immoral & Unjust"

August 30, 2013 • 10:42AM
Virginia State Senator Richard Black (District 13) issued the following statement opposing attack on Syria.


Before any attack is launched against the sovereign nation of Syria, I feel compelled to express my firm opposition to the mass slaughter that lies ahead.
Driven by inter-party hubris and foreign influence, we are about to commit our nation to another conflict in an endless string of tragic and costly Mideast wars, despite having no national interest there.
Allegations of poison gas have become the convenient pretext for war. Rebels claim the Syrian government has used gas against civilians. Syria has fought bloody house-to-house battles against rebel armies for two years. Syria's forces did not use gas against President Assad's enemies when its use would have decisively shifted the tide of battle in Syria's favor. But now, the world is asked to believe that, having withheld poison gas in battle, Syria has used it against women and children in the capital of Damascus knowing it could invite countries to join the fight against them.
And who are these rebels who would be our allies? The rebels are widely reported to be dominated by al Qaeda1 2 3, the same group that killed 3,000 Americans in the 9-11. These rebels have sworn to purge the country of infidels, and especially of Christians, who are 10% of the population, currently given protection under the Syrian government.
Rebel leaders have gleefully cannibalized fallen soldiers on camera.4 Rebels conduct frequent mass executions of Syrian POWs.5 They have burned churches and raped6and beheaded Christians, including priests and nuns. Just two weeks ago, they carried out mass executions in Kurdish towns, butchering at least 450 civilians—men, women and children.7
I urge our leaders to pull back from another war. Because the pretext for war is shaky at best; because we would align ourselves with possible war criminals; because these rebels would likely impose barbaric Sharia Law; and because such a war is unjustified under international law, I will pray for our troops, but I cannot in good conscience support this war.
Warm Regards,
Richard H. Black
Senator of Virginia, 13th District

Yara Abbas – In her own words - by Sharmine Narwani

31 MAY 2013

By Sharmine Narwani
I met Al Ikhbariya journalist Yara Abbas for the first and only time in August 2012. I was organizing my trip into Aleppo and was looking to talk to someone on the ground about safety issues. An acquaintance of Yara’s who worked at my hotel told me he knew a journalist on the front lines of the conflict in Aleppo, and gave me her number. When Yara and I finally spoke, she was on her way back to Damascus and warned me down the phone line about the road between Aleppo and its airport, at the time subject to random checkpoints set up by armed rebels.
The connection wasn’t great. “Look – I reach Damascus tonight. Why don’t we meet tomorrow and talk in person,” she kindly suggested via mobile.
The bombed studio in Al Ikhbariya's new premises. Yara had to get permission for me to take this photo.
The bombed studio in Al Ikhbariya’s new premises. Yara had to get permission for me to take this photo.
The following day I headed to her temporary offices off Ummayad Square. In June, Al Ikhbariya’s headquarters had been bombed by Jabhat al Nusra, gutting the building and killing seven members of staff, including three journalists. The new facilities where I met Yara had also been recently bombed, but on a much smaller scale – I think only one studio was destroyed.
Yara had rushed back to Damascus from nine straight days embedded with Syrian troops in Aleppo to await news about her roommate and fellow Al Ikhbariya colleague Yara Saleh – recently kidnapped by rebels along with three other crew members, one of whom, Hatem Abu Yehia, was later executed.
Our conversation was interrupted by phone calls from friends and colleagues calling to commiserate over Saleh’s kidnapping. Yara was clearly shaken by the news and teared up several times during these calls.
She was a striking young woman in her mid 20s – slender, tall, huge green eyes framed by long dark hair. Most notable though were her immaculately manicured long fingernails. A solitary girlish vanity on the front lines of combat, I grinned to myself.
I rarely have reason to interview members of the media. My only two exceptions have both been related to the Syrian conflict – the first, Paul Conroy, the freelance Sunday Times cameraman injured in Homs who I interviewed outside his London hospital – and now Yara.
Although I went to meet Yara for tips on how to avoid the dangers of Aleppo, I ended up taking some notes because she was providing accounts and impressions of events that, at the time, were still novel.
I wish I had taken more notes – at some point fairly early on, I just stopped writing and focused on listening to her stories. Some of the things I recall from our conversation that I didn’t commit to paper are details about army tactics. The soldiers she had just left behind in Aleppo, for instance, moved in small groups from house to house, and street to street. I had looked into this subject in June during a trip to learn more about the army’s recent escalation of military operations in hotspots around the country after the UN mission had failed to establish a ceasefire.
Unlike what is reported widely in the media, until – and even after – the Syrian military introduced their air force into the conflict, ground troops continue to wage small-scale operations in neighborhoods occupied by opposition militias. This usually starts with gathering intelligence on where rebels store their weapons, who they are, where they live – getting the lay of the land, so to speak – and then moves on to small ground operations to target and destroy these networks.
Yara’s account of her nine days embedded with the army in Aleppo confirmed this for me, but she surprised me with the information that the soldiers she travelled with mostly slept in the conflict zone itself – in a vacant home or sometimes on the street. Having wrested back territory, they were unwilling to leave it for the night.  When I asked her if she was afraid, Yara was emphatic that she has never been afraid of moving in sniper-filled corridors. She told me that the soldiers – whom she had first met in Damascus and then followed into Aleppo – protected her with their lives and made her feel safe.
When I heard of Yara’s death this week – at the hands of a sniper, no less – my first thought, oddly, was of this. The Syrian army soldiers who she admired so much were not there to protect her as her car raced out of war-torn Qusayr.
BLQ10ZuCAAAiMgUHere is Yara last August, in her own words:
On the scene in Aleppo:  At the beginning there were still civilians in these areas (in Aleppo’s contested neighborhoods), now maybe 20% remain.
I went with the army and knocked at the door of one woman. She started to cry – please take me out of here. They removed her and took her to her brother’s home. The militias make holes in the walls of homes to go from building to building to avoid being out in the open. Seventy percent of the destruction there is from militias. I saw 12 big bombs and 35 small ones in a home they had taken over.
You see the same militia patterns in Homs as in Aleppo – there are no tactical differences. Their plan is to gain weapons, kill Syrian soldiers, hit government buildings.
On the militias: I saw three from Lebanon, one from Africa, from Libya. All of the ones whose passports we found in their hideout had travelled to Saudi Arabia, Cyprus and Turkey – there are stamps in their passports. Some of their weapons are coming on the Lebanon-Syria border via donkeys.
They send out women and kids to see where the soldiers are, what they are doing. I saw a woman with a stroller myself – soldiers asked me to go talk to her. She had guns in her pram that she was delivering to militias.
They sent an old man past one checkpoint saying he wants to go check on his home – he had a bomb on him and they detonated it.
FSA has very developed weapons, and they have all kinds of weapons. Bombs, doshkas (heavy machine guns) and Shilkas (radar-guided anti-aircraft system), anti-tank weapons, anti-aircraft weapons. An anti-aircraft weapon was just used in Idlib.
I’ve become so much more determined and strong after my time in Aleppo. They put a mask of religion on their face – they are not fighting for true issues. Their demands for freedom are false. Look at what they are doing to civilians. They say they want to stop the violence, but they’re making the violence.
If they were true, they will not have a weapon. They will be unable to kill the Syrian people. There are a lot of Islamists who are also rejecting these militias because they know they are not fighting for Syrian progress. Yes, there are people who are helping them, but also a lot of Islamists who are refusing this way. I saw this myself in the middle of Salaheddine (heavily contested Aleppo neighborhood). They (pious Syrians) stayed home and pray, but won’t open the door to the militias. They are scared.
This varies in areas. In Hajjar al-Aswad (Damascus suburb) about 80% are pro-militia. About 90% in Aleppo are with the government now.
On the Syrian army: You see our soldiers when they are attacked, sometimes when they are dead. You cannot be separated from this. These soldiers know they’re going to be killed. They stand in the middle of the street and shoot – they are not afraid. They have a mission.
A soldier from Talbiseh (near Homs) has seven gunshots in his body from Duma and he’s come back to fight.
From Rastan, Deraa, Idlib – all of them don’t want to go back – they want to stay and fight.
One soldier, a Sunni from Idlib had a gunshot in his leg – he refused to leave the army. He went to the hospital and came back the next day to fight in Aleppo. In Idlib militias put pressure on his family to make him leave the army – they took his brother for a while, beat him up a bit. But the soldier said “they can take my whole family, but not my country.” I did a story on him.
The group of soldiers I’m with in Aleppo, I met in Damascus. Before that they were in Homs and Deraa. They are so young, but they’re so strong.
Yara is listed as the 38th media casualty of the Syrian conflict – by any standard that is a shocking number of journalists to have lost their lives covering a story. In Syria, increasingly, it appears that reporters are being singled out for execution. Whichever perspective a journalist brings to this highly-contested media war over Syria, death is surely undeserved.
Rest in Peace, Yara Abbas.
Abdul Raheem Kour Hassan, Watan FM
Unknown, in Damascus, Syria
Ghaith Abd al-Jawad, Qaboun Media Center
March 10, 2013, in Damascus, Syria
Amr Badir al-Deen Junaid, Qaboun Media Center
March 10, 2013, in Damascus, Syria
Walid Jamil Amira, Jobar Media Center
March 3, 2013, in Damascus, Syria
Mohamed al-Mesalma, Al-Jazeera
January 18, 2013, in Daraa, Syria
Yves Debay, Assault
January 17, 2013, in Aleppo, Syria
Suhail Mahmoud al-Ali, Addounia TV
January 4, 2013, in Damascus, Syria
Naji Asaad, Tishreen
December 4, 2012, in Damascus, Syria
Mohamed Quratem, Enab Baladi
November 28, 2012, in Darya, Syria
Mohamed al-Khal, Freelance
November 25, 2012, in Deir al-Zour, Syria
Basel Tawfiq Youssef, Syrian State TV
November 21, 2012, in Damascus, Syria
Hozan Abdel Halim Mahmoud, Freelance
November 19, 2012, in Ras al-Ain, Syria
Mohammed al-Ashram, Al-Ikhbariya
October 10, 2012, in Deir Al-Zour, Syria
Mona al-Bakkour, Al-Thawra and Syria al-Qalaa
October 3, 2012, in Aleppo, Syria
Maya Naser, Press TV
September 26, 2012, in Damascus, Syria
Abdel Karim al-Oqda, Shaam News Network
September 19, 2012, in Hama, Syria
Yusuf Ahmed Deeb, Liwaa Al-Fatih
September 16, 2012, in Aleppo, Syria
Tamer al-Awam, Freelance
September 9, 2012, in Aleppo, Syria
Mosaab al-Obdaallah, Tishreen
August 22, 2012, in Damascus, Syria
Mika Yamamoto, Japan Press
August 20, 2012, in Aleppo, Syria
Ali Abbas, SANA
August 11, 2012, in Damascus, Syria
Hatem Abu Yehia, Al-Ikhbariya
August 10, 2012, in Al-Tal, Syria
Mohammad Shamma, Al-Ikhbariya
June 27, 2012, in Doursha, Syria
Sami Abu Amin, Al-Ikhbariya
June 27, 2012, in Doursha, Syria
Ahmed al-Assam, Freelance
May 28, 2012, in Homs, Syria
Bassel al-Shahade, Freelance
May 28, 2012, in Homs, Syria
Ahmed Adnan al-Ashlaq, Shaam News Network
May 27, 2012, in Damascus, Syria
Lawrence Fahmy al-Naimi, Shaam News Network
May 27, 2012, in Damascus, Syria
Ammar Mohamed Suhail Zado, Shaam News Network
May 27, 2012, in Damascus, Syria
Anas al-Tarsha, Freelance
February 24, 2012, in Homs, Syria
Rémi Ochlik, Freelance
February 22, 2012, in Homs, Syria
Marie Colvin, The Sunday Times
February 22, 2012, in Homs, Syria
Rami al-Sayed, Freelance
February 21, 2012, in Homs, Syria
Mazhar Tayyara, Freelance
February 4, 2012, in Homs, Syria
Gilles Jacquier, France 2
January 11, 2012, in Homs, Syria
Basil al-Sayed, Freelance
December 27, 2011, in Homs, Syria
Ferzat Jarban, Freelance
November 19 or 20, 2011, in Al-Qasir, Syria
-Committee to Protect Journalists

Syrian Rebels (aka Islamist Terrorists) Describe U.S.-Backed Training in Qatar

May 26, 2014 by Nancy A. Youssef   & McClatchy Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — With reports indicating that forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad are gaining ground in that country’s brutal civil war, moderate Syrian rebels have told a visiting journalist that the United States is arranging their training in Qatar.

In a documentary to be aired Tuesday night, the rebels describe their clandestine journey from the Syrian battlefield to meet with their American handlers in Turkey and then travel on to Qatar, where they say they received training in the use of sophisticated weapons and fighting techniques, including, one rebel said, “how to finish off soldiers still alive after an ambush.”

The interviews are the latest evidence that after more than three years of warfare, the United States has stepped up the provision of lethal aid to the rebels. In recent months, at least five rebel units have posted videos showing their members firing U.S.-made TOW anti-tank missiles at Syrian positions. The weapons are believed to have come from Saudi Arabia, but experts on international arms transfers have told McClatchy that they could not have been given to the rebels without the approval of the Obama administration.

The documentary, produced by FRONTLINE for airing on PBS stations, features journalist Muhammad Ali, who has been following the Syrian civil war for the program. It shows Ali meeting up with a seemingly moderate faction of the rebels, though the faction itself is not identified — apparently for fear of angering its American contacts.

Ali is shown riding with a rebel supply officer as he traveled to the Turkish border to reportedly pick up American-supplied Russian weapons and ammunition, but he is not allowed to accompany the fighters to the actual meeting. When the rebels return to pick him up, they display bullets and a mortar, which are shown in the film, and tell him they have received TOW missiles; the missiles are not shown, however.

The commander of the unit also told Ali that their American contacts had asked him to bring 80 to 90 members of his unit to Ankara for training. Once in Ankara, after a 14-hour drive from Syria, they were interrogated for days about their political leanings and their unit’s fighting history. The commander told Ali that their questioners identified themselves as belonging to “the military,” but that he believed they were from the CIA.

On the final day, they were told that they would be flown the next day to a training camp in Qatar, a monarchy in the Persian Gulf. Then they were transported to a training facility they believed was near the border with Saudi Arabia.

One of the fighters said they received three weeks of training in how to conduct ambushes, conduct raids and use their weapons. They also said they received new uniforms and boots.

“They trained us to ambush regime or enemy vehicles and cut off the road,” said the fighter, who is identified only as “Hussein.” “They also trained us on how to attack a vehicle, raid it, retrieve information or weapons and munitions, and how to finish off soldiers still alive after an ambush.”

But whether such aid from the United States helps bring the peace in the form of negotiation or extend the war by giving the rebels false hope remains unclear.

Indeed, the fighters told Ali that they cannot win without anti-aircraft missiles against Assad superior air war, which they have yet to receive.

“When I saw there was no training in anti-aircraft missiles, my morale was destroyed,” one fighter told Ali.

For the United States, its new effort means treading slowly into murky waters. In the last few months, the United States has signaled it is increasingly interested in finding an ally that can force Assad to the negotiation table and curtail the burgeoning al-Qaeda threat coming from extremist groups fighting Assad.

The United States has refused to confirm its growing efforts to help the fighters. Neither the Pentagon nor the CIA would comment on Frontline’s findings.
For the United States, publicly embracing such an effort presents many challenges, chief among them widespread opposition among U.S. voters for more direct U.S. involvement in the Syrian conflict. When the United States was considering a military strike on Syria last summer after a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs, polling showed overwhelming opposition to U.S. military intervention.

Moreover, many both inside and out of government fear U.S.-provided weapons could make their way into extremist hands, particularly in a place like Syria, where alliances and foes change with breakneck fluidity. Moderate rebel groups have worked closely with the al Qaeda-aligned Nusra Front and the Islamic Front, one of whose factions, Ahrar al-Sham, includes al-Qaeda members among its founders.

Perhaps because of those reasons, Congress has never publicly signed off on funding for a training and arming effort, and officially, the United States only provides non-lethal aid, like food rations, clothing and first aid supplies.

This article is the latest in an ongoing collaboration between McClatchy and FRONTLINE on the war in Syria. FRONTLINE’s film, Syria: Arming the Rebels airs Tues. May 27 on most PBS stations. View McClatchy’s ongoing coverage of Syria here.


Syria | FSA's Daraa Massacre | 42 killed, hundreds injured

23 May 2014

42 people killed and more than 205 wounded (inc 14 critically) in Daraa after terrorists fired multiple mortar shells at civilian areas. Many of the victims were young children.

The election campaign tents were packed with supporters of President Bashar Assad when they were hit with mortar shells..

The shelling late Thursday (22 May 2014) marked the first attack on a campaign event ahead of the June 3 vote that President Bashar al-Assad is widely expected to win.
Innocent children killed or critically injured by FSA. Is there any justification to this crime?
Syrian TV stations showed pictures of President Assad supporters dancing in a campaign tent in Daraa. It then showed people lying dead and wounded on the ground, including several children.

Ahmad Masalma, an "opposition activist" in Daraa, said six such tents — festooned with posters of President Assad and Syrian flags — have been set up in the past week in the city. He criticized the celebratory mood in the tents. "They have loud music and Dabka," he said, referring to a traditional foot-stomping dance. He said it was very provocative and an insult to the blood of "martyrs", referring to the killed armed terrorists.

He said and another "activist" who identified himself by his first name, Ahmad, said rebels from a faction of the Free Syrian Army umbrella group fired a single mortar shell at the tent in a government-held area, after repeatedly warning civilians to stay away. Daraa is divided into a rebel-held and a government-held sector.

He said about 100 people, including members of pro-Assad militias, officers and employees, were in the tent when it was hit in the Matar district.

Masalma said the attack "set the tent ablaze and sent shrapnel flying everywhere."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the mortar attack and reiterated his opposition to the indiscriminate use of any weapons by any party against civilians.

Daraa's Gov. Khaled al-Hannus described the attack as a "massacre" and "a crime by terrorists meant to prevent Syrians from taking part in the presidential elections." Speaking on Syrian TV, he vowed Syrians will be undeterred and said that every honorable citizen in Daraa will vote for President Assad.

Western backed terrorists (mix and macch of many terrorists groups including FSA, Islamic Front, Jabhat al-Nusra, ISIS) trying to overthrow President Assad and the Syrian government frequently fire mortar shells indiscriminately over the civilian population into Syria's major cities, including the Damascus, from "opposition"-held suburbs.

Below are some photos of the innocent victims of this horrific attack:

One of the killed babies in the attack

Innocent children killed or critically injured by FSA. Is there any justification to this crime?

SOURCE | Compiled from various online sources


Syria demands UNHRC condemn Daraa appalling massacre | May 26, 2014

Damascus, (SANA) Foreign and Expatriates Ministry demanded that the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) condemn the appalling massacre that took place in the city of Daraa last Thursday.

Armed terrorist groups launched mortar shells that targeted citizens who gathered to show support to their homeland and condemnation of terrorism.

A total of 39 civilians, including women and children, were killed and another 205 wounded, including 14 in critical condition.

"[The Massacre] is part of a chain of premeditated crimes targeting the Syrians and their beliefs with the aim to undermine their civilization and transform Syria into a hub for terrorism and backwardness," the Ministry said in a letter send to the Geneva-based Council.

Shell salvos targeting schools, hospitals, worshipping places and, more recently, civilian gatherings with the aim to kill the largest possible numbers are daily occurrences in Syrian cities, the letter said.

The ministry blamed regional and international countries, namely Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, France, UK and US for a direct support to terrorists. "These countries have long sought to foster terrorism in Syria, falsely believing that that they might be immune to it. Terrorism has, however, come back to haunt the same countries that have backed it."

Dismayed at the prospect of battle-heartened terrorists coming back, the letters said, the countries that support terrorists scramble to convene conferences to find ways for preventing them returning.

The ministry lamented that some UN officials-particularly the Human Rights High Commissioner-are acting according to agendas set by those same countries, issuing statements and reports in service of their interests.

"They persist in distorting facts and inflaming the anti-Syria campaign," said the letter referring to the countries backing terrorism. "Which is at odds with their duties in objectively and competently defending human rights and encouraging every single positive step, including successive reconciliations in Syrian cities,'' the letter concluded.

I ACCUSE : War crimes and crimes against humanity in Aleppo

The 3 Million civilian inhabitants of Aleppo are, independent of their confession or political opinion…, taken hostage since 2 years, and they are victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity :
  • Total blockade of people and goods, several times, the longest taking over 6 weeks, always resulting in severe shortages of essential supplies like vegetables, fruits, fuel, heating oil, medications, meet, etc,
  • Cutting of electric power supply over several days and up to 11 [consecutive] days,
  • Shutting down of the drinking water system over 2 and up to 11 [consecutive] days,
  • Repeatedly disconnecting local and international telephone and internet connections over 2 and up to 20 consecutive days,
  • Daily bombardment of civilian areas using bombs or mortars, resulting in numerous dead and wounded,
  • Snipers shooting at innocent civilians,
  • Systematic destruction of the archeological and cultural heritage.
The International Human Rights, based on the 4 Geneva conventions of 1949, the 2 additional protocols of 1977, and on the Rome Statute of 2002 for establishing the International Criminal Court (ICC) define war crimes and crimes against humanity. Article 8, 2(a)(iii) and (b)(ix) of the ICC qualifies as war crime “willfully causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or health” and “intentionally directing attacks against buildings dedicated to religion, education, art, science or charitable purposes, historic monuments, hospitals”; and Article 7, 1(k) qualifies as crime against humanity “inhumane acts … intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health”.

As the inhabitants of Aleppo are not allowed to leave the city, as they are imprisoned there, as they are hungry, as they are thirsty, as they become sick caused by the lack of sanitation and medications, as they are prevented from communicating with the world, as they are targeted by mortar shells and snipers, all these acts, do they not represent great suffering and serious injury to body and health? Are these not war crimes and crimes against humanity as defined in the conventions cited above ?

I ACCUSE the media, the Western and Arab governments, international organizations like the UNO, UNICEF, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights of complicity in war crimes and crimes against humanity.

I DEMAND from all men and women of the world who care for freedom and justice, faced with such acts :
  • to raise attention to them,
  • to denounce them,
  • to condemn them,
  • to demand from their governments to put pressure on those who command and those who carry out
  • to prosecute the ones responsible before the ICC.
The taking hostage of the civil population of Aleppo must end.

Write to the media, to the members of parliament, senators, ministers, presidents, and international organizations. Tell them that the inhabitants of Aleppo are the target of terrorist acts that qualify as crimes. Tell them about the suffering of the people, explain them about the destruction of the country and of our beloved city, remind them that the “Arab Spring” in Syria is nothing but a freezing winter and a futile chaos.

As of now, the water blockade is over. It followed other blockades in the past and there will possibly be more to come in future if you don’t move.


Nabil Antaki
Aleppo, May 17, 2014

(Translated by Alexander Fluegel)


Protests erupt across Turkey as death toll in Soma mine disaster tops 294

By Alex Lantier | 15 May 2014 | wsws

Protests erupted across Turkey yesterday over the catastrophic mine disaster in the city of Soma as the government and the Soma Kumur company that operated the mine brazenly defended the profiteering and the absence of security precautions that produced the tragedy.

Rescue efforts are still ongoing at the Soma mine, where the death toll topped 274 yesterday. This makes the Soma disaster the most deadly industrial accident in the history of Turkey, surpassing the 1992 mine explosion in Zonguldak that killed 263. One of the dead was an underage 15-year-old miner who was apparently an unregistered worker at the mine.

The death toll in Soma is expected to rise even further. Officials have said that at least 120 miners are trapped inside the mine, and several reports indicate that the number may be over 200. Hope is rapidly dwindling that they could have survived until now.

Fires are still raging inside the mine. An electrical fault in one of the mine’s power distributors triggered an explosion of built-up methane gas on Tuesday that cut power to ventilation systems and mine cages that would have brought miners back to the surface. Rescue teams returning to the surface said conditions inside the mine were dark and smoky, with large amounts of carbon monoxide gas. Most of the dead reportedly succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said, “hopes are diminishing” of rescuing those still inside the mine, though some miners might have reached emergency chambers stocked with gas masks and air. Thousands of relatives and friends of miners trapped inside the mine gathered around the pit again yesterday, hoping for news of their loved ones.

Responsibility for this preventable catastrophe lies with the mine operator and the Turkish government, which callously put profits over miners’ lives.

As it slashed coal-mining costs from $140 to $23.80 per ton over the decade since the privatization of the mine, Soma Kumur refused to buy standard security equipment to monitor methane gas levels. That equipment would have prevented the blast.

The company relied on the complicity of the unions and the government, which allowed the Soma mine to pass meaningless safety inspections with flying colors despite repeated accidents. (See: Corporate, government profiteering caused Soma mining catastrophe)

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of the Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) visited the mine yesterday, together with opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu.

Erdogan shamelessly dismissed the catastrophe as unavoidable and defended the record of his government and Soma Kumur. Calling deadly mine disasters “usual things,” he pointed to mine disasters nearly two centuries ago in early 19th-century Britain, long before the invention of today’s safety equipment that would have prevented the Soma blast.

“I went back in British history. Some 204 people died there after a mine collapsed in 1838. In 1866, 361 miners died in Britain. In an explosion in 1894, 290 people died there,” he said.

“Take America with all of its technology and everything,” he added. “In 1907, 361 miners died there.”

As in 2010—when Erdogan called a deadly accident at the Karodan mine in Zonguldak an act of “fate”—officials are arrogantly insisting that mass carnage must be accepted as an inevitable fact of life. In reality, miners are driven by economic necessity to work for companies that treat them and their safety with contempt, putting profits ahead of lives.

After his remarks, inhabitants of the city surrounded Erdogan, denouncing him as a murderer and demanding that he resign, while others attacked and ransacked the local AKP office. Protesters also booed the CHP’s Kilicdaroglu, blocking him from entering the mine.

Erdogan’s bodyguards removed his official car’s 0002 license plate and tried to hide the prime minister in a supermarket, while detachments of riot police brought into the city assaulted the mourning families and townspeople.
A widely-circulated photo showing Erdogan’s advisor Yusuf Yerkel kicking a protester being held down by riot police in Soma

One widely circulated photo from Soma showed Erdogan’s advisor Yusuf Yerkel kicking a protester being held down by riot police. Asked about it later, Yerkel defended his actions, arguing that the man was a “leftist militant.”

Protests spread to other cities in Turkey, including Istanbul and the capital, Ankara. In Ankara, riot police attacked students from the Middle East Technical University (ODTU) with tear gas and water cannon to prevent them from marching on the Energy Ministry. A standoff continued into the evening at the university, as police continued to block the exit.

Police also fired tear gas and deployed a water cannon to block a protest marching through downtown Ankara.

In Istanbul, police attacked thousands of protesters chanting “Government resign” on Taksim Square, the site of mass anti-government protests by urban youth last year. There were also protests outside the headquarters of Soma Holdings in Istanbul, where youth drew graffiti branding the building as a “murderers’ nest.”

The central fear of the Erdogan regime and of the entire political establishment in Turkey is that mass outrage over the Soma catastrophe could provoke an uprising of the working class, as occurred in Egypt in the revolutionary movement that toppled US-backed dictator Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

The Erdogan regime is unpopular and increasingly discredited by its brutal response to the Taksim Square protests last year, allegations of high-level corruption, and, above all, its complicity in the US-led proxy war against neighboring Syria, which is overwhelmingly opposed by the Turkish people. After leaked recordings emerged of internal discussions of corrupt deals by Erdogan and his top associates, and a conspiracy by Turkish intelligence officers to provoke a war with Syria, the regime blocked access to YouTube and social media sites in Turkey.

Sections of Turkey’s union bureaucracy are trying to organize toothless protests to divert and suppress working class opposition to the Erdogan regime. The Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DISK), the Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (KESK), and the Chamber of Architects and Engineers (TMMOB) called for a work stoppage and three minutes of silence at 9am today. They also asked their members to wear black as a symbol of mourning.